The best board games to play in 2022
What do we mean when we say an “all-time” great in any genre? It has to be something that has stood the test of time, like all of our choices for the best classic board games. But at the same time, we need to move away from titles that have been diminished by over-familiarity and stray into new and exciting territory. We also want to include things that have been acclaimed to the top of their particular tree at one time or another, to give some historical perspective.
That’s the direction we’ve bought at the list below, a mix of games once considered the best of all time, as well as close contenders that have earned their place through novelty or popularity. They’re all awesome in one way or another, so whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong.
Many games that revolve around land grabbing tend to involve the kind of tentative alliances and festering enmities that mimic real-world diplomacy. In 1977, the designers of Cosmic Encounter had a brilliant idea: why not get rid of the territory and get straight to the point? The result is this hilarious game of shifting alliances where each player has revolutionary alien power to harness in the race to win colonies on five of your opponent’s planets. Filled with variety, tactical decisions, and twists more dramatic than a prime-time soap opera, Cosmic Encounter might be the only trading game you need.
The current king of the board game stack has succeeded through an ingenious mix of genres. If you like old-school dungeon crawls with a strong narrative, well, the 95 fantasy adventure storyline campaign has you covered. If you love tactical combat, its cunning, card-based clashes against a staggering variety of enemies will delight you. But if you want heavy strategy, the deck building and resource gathering during the campaign, along with the exhaustion mechanic in the storyline, gives you plenty of meat. Truly everything for all gamers – even fans of the best single-player board games – Gloomhaven deserves its staggering level of recognition. And while the cost is a bit high, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion offers a smaller campaign at a much lower price. And not for nothing, both of these iterations also made our list of the best board games for adults.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
If combat-based narrative campaigns aren’t your thing, how about working together to purge the world of infectious diseases? Building on the success of the original Pandemic, this introduces “legacy” concepts to the game, where components are added or removed as you progress through the game, based on your decisions, successes and chess. After a few listens, your copy will be a unique recording of your band’s piece. So, in addition to offering a very personal story to engage with, Pandemic: Legacy also individualizes your strategic experience. It’s a magical combination that spawned two more seasons, creating an epic story and strategy arc to enjoy with a playgroup or even as one of the best family board games.
Presented as a Cold War simulation and with sharp rules, Twilight Struggle can seem daunting to the uninitiated. But there’s a reason it was widely acclaimed the greatest game of all time after its release in 2009. Players have hands of event cards that replicate key moments in the conflict, either side-related or to their opponent. If you play an opponent’s card, you can still make moves on the board, but their event also occurs. It makes every hand a thrilling tactical dance of play and counterplay as you try to advance your plans while undoing enemy events. Along with the great strategy training, you might even learn a bit of history.
Another game that has spent its time in the “best game ever” spotlight is this unlikely farming game. However, taking a step back from the theme, raising a family to work on a family farm is a doppelganger of the popular worker placement mechanic. As a result, Agricola evokes a real sense of growing and developing your humble plantation into a thriving place, with plenty of interesting strategic bumps to navigate along the way. Its particular genius lies in its enormous decks of cards, of which only a handful are used in each game, which guarantees great strategic variety and allows you to adapt elements such as complexity and interaction to the tastes of your group.
Entering this game of estate building in medieval France, you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by the options for developing your castle. Luckily, it’s a dice-based game where rolling each turn limits your choices of where you can take action. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a random game: instead, the dice are there to keep throwing curveballs at you that you have to dodge while you build a strategy. A classic case of having too much to do and too little to do, every action in every round feels weighed down by impossible priorities, keeping you stretched until the points are tallied.
Lords of Waterdeep
Marrying Dungeons & Dragons sensibilities with modern board game mechanics, Lords of Waterdeep has made a smash hit to last through the ages. Players take on the role of power brokers in the largest city in the Forgotten Realms, hiring adventurers to defeat the perils threatening Waterdeep while building new facilities in the city. It’s these additions that take this unusually themed worker placement game to the next level, with new buildings coming into play ensuring that new strategies are needed every time. Add a minimum of minor “take that” cards to spice things up and you have a brilliant deck with very high appeal.
Ticket to ride
Ticket to Ride is one of the few hobby board games to turn into mainstream sales, a runaway success. It’s a combination of concepts familiar with players collecting cards, like a game of rummy, in an attempt to claim matching routes on a map of the United States. But beware: this is a tight table with relatively few potential connections between cities that you will need to complete your allocated routes. And if another player gets there first, you’ll lose potential points instead of gaining them. Easy to learn and exciting to play and with a wide variety of builds and expansion cards, Ticket to Ride is great fun for all ages. It also works well as a two-player or group board game.
While conquest games involving ancient Rome cost ten percent, Concordia instead has you maneuvering a noble family to gain wealth and contact at the height of the empire. The game is conducted using a deck of action cards which you can expand, using the wealth of your trades, as the game progresses, allowing you to adapt your strategy accordingly. But most importantly, your final score also depends on these cards, with different cards earning you points in different ways, from goods in your warehouse to settler parts on the board. This creates a fascinating and rich strategy layer, wheel-to-wheel, while the resource management elements also allow you to mess up your opponent’s plans while advancing your own.
Summoner Wars 2nd Edition
Collector’s games rise and fall in popularity and in-print status, making even classics like Magic: the Gathering difficult to include in this type of list. Summoner Wars, however, with its clever mix of card-based and board-based gameplay, has an evergreen feel about it, and best of all, its collection comes in packages. So if you get tired of taking on the six included factions, you can simply add more to your collection. By forcing players to use cards as both units and currency, it allows everyone to make knife-edge decisions as they maneuver around the board and roll against opposing units in their quest to kill the enemy summoner, until death on board.
Bursting onto the scene in 2015, Codenames changed the face of board games forever. Instead of quizzes or trivial tasks, it challenged players to find clues to connect a series of seemingly unrelated words. Thus, you can associate “Travel”, “Rome” and perhaps even “Embassy” with the index “Holidays”. The concept proved so accessible and addictive that it launched a whole new genre of synonym-based word games, each giving different spins on a similar formula. But for ease of teaching and breadth of fun, the original is still the best.
Looking for more ideas not covered here? Check out our list of the best board games for kids.